No, it is our scary present. Josh and I had decided to take one of the boat cruises to Alesund from Bergen, as the views were supposed to be quite nice and it was the only way other than by bus to arrive. We didn’t realize that we would be on such a large boat with people who are twice our age, and on a serious 14 day trip to boot. They have meals in the dining room while we eat salami and cheese sandwiches in our room. They are allowed to go on extra excursions while we stay on the boat. They listen to motivational speakers in the seminar room while we explore the many ugly decks of the ship. And they sleep while we take blankets and sit on the deck to bask in the midnight sun (such as it is with the rain and cold, anyway). Josh and I have never felt younger in our lives, as the average age on this ship I would estimate at about 70 or so. During the orientation where they were talking to the normal (full board) passengers about all of their possible eating times, they noted that people gain an average of 4-5 kilos on such trips. That didn’t surprise me much looking at this lot, as they hardly seemed the type to exercise much. They mostly sat on the upper deck, indoors, and stared out the window with a scary passivity. And when you add in how absolutely horrific the interior design of the ship was, the whole scene made me feel kind of melancholy. The weather was pretty bad for most of our day and a half long trip, but there was some pretty nice scenery along the way. We were only onboard for a day, but it somehow seemed like a lot longer than that. Maybe this is why older people take these long cruises; it makes life seem to last a lot longer than it otherwise would.
Today I’d like to talk about a problem that is widespread everywhere, particularly bad in the gay community, and epidemic in scale on gay dating web sites: Lying about one’s age.
Over the past few years I have been struck by how many people lie about their age online. While it is true they lie about other attributes and (ahem) measurements, age seems to be the most rampant. The obvious reason is that our society is youth obsessed. Which is another way of saying we are afraid of dying. We are afraid of even the taint of mortality. This pervades the culture and causes people to lose all sense of proportion when sizing up potential dates and even friends. I would estimate that about 60 percent of the gay men I have met lie about their age. (Anyone out there care to estimate how many women do the same? And increasingly, straight men?). The incidence of lying about one’s age goes up the older one is. Some will shave just a year or two off, to fit into some magic box like “under 40” some will routinely take 5 or 10 years off reported age, telling themselves that “Hey, I can easily pass for it, all my friends say it, so why not?” Maybe people are insecure enough to think that if it weren’t for just this one thing, this one undesirable trait (age), they would generate a lot more interest. Maybe they are even right about that. But starting out from a place of lying is not the best way to begin any kind of relationship, at least if you believe that good relationships are built atop a foundation of honesty and trust (which I do). Maybe if all one is looking for is a one night stand, who cares? Roll the dice and see who believes.
I have always though that hey, if you are going to lie about your age, at least lie UP, not DOWN. I am 42. If I were to tell people I am 50, they would shower me with compliments, asking my secret to looking so young. I would smile humbly and tell them a simple life rich in healthy foods, exercise and meditation keeps me vital. If on the other hand I were to tell people I am 30, they would say “Really? wow…” and be thinking “…this guy has had a ROUGH life….how much partying has he done? he looks like shit.” So I don’t lie about my age. If someone is more interested in a statistic than what is in front of them, so be it.
I do wonder what would happen if everyone in our society stopped lying about age. If everyone celebrated exactly where they were in life as being a unique opportunity to experience something new. Something now. Ultimately that is all we have, and I believe we are happier people when we live in the now. If we as a culture stopped obsessing about our youth, stopped obsessing about our aging and mortality, it would effect enormous positive change. That probably won’t happen in my lifetime. But each of is, through our own actions, has a chance to subtly change the terms of the debate. Each of us, by choosing to represent ourselves honestly can move things a tiny bit. And bit by bit, the world will be a different place. A place that is accepting because we accept not only ourselves, but others as well.